HILL AIR FORCE BASE — An Ogden police officer injured in a deadly shootout in January got an opportunity Thursday to fulfill a lifelong dream of flying aboard an F-16.
That flight was a part of the Air Force's Hometown Heroes program.
Each year, one person is chosen from the community to take the flight. Members of the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force were selected as local heroes, and officer Shawn Grogan had his name drawn to represent the team.
"It's actually very humbling," Grogan said. "It's an awesome experience to be here and to represent the strike force, and agent (Jared) Francom would have absolutely loved to have done this."
Francom was killed in the shootout.
On the night of Jan. 4, a chaotic gun battle erupted as members of the strike force attempted to serve a search warrant at Matthew Stewart's Ogden house.
Ogden officers Francom, Grogan, Michael Rounkles and Kasey Burrel, along with Weber County Sheriff's Sgt. Nate Hutchinson and Roy police officer Jason Vanderwarf, were shot.
Francom, who was hit six times, died the next morning from his injuries.
"He was an excellent agent … (and) an excellent person,” Grogan said. “He was a good friend of mine, a wonderful father and husband."
Grogan said he wants people to remember the hard work done by dozens of other police officers and first responders the night of the shooting.
"(Other officers present that night), they're the heroes," he said. "They got everybody out of there. They got the injured officers out of there, they got me out of there, they got us to the hospital. So I'd just wanna say thank you to those officers that were there."
Grogan said he wanted the flight Thursday to be as much about Francom as it was for him.
"He's greatly missed by everybody, and he'll always be in all of our thoughts and all of our prayers,” he said, “and hopefully he'll be flying with me today."
Grogan said he felt anxious watching F-16s fly overhead before his flight.
"I'm a bit nervous, but extremely excited," he said. "Who doesn't look up in the sky as a jet flies overhead and wish that they could be in there?"
After the flight, he was all smiles.
"That was just fabulous," Grogan said. "The view from up there is incredible."
Doing those loops, rolls and high-speed passes take a lot of practice, said Maj. Caroline Jensen, with the Air Force Reserve, pilots Thunderbird No. 3. She said each member of the Thunderbirds has more than 2,000 hours of flight time. Most have performed in air shows more than 100 times, but it never gets old.
"Each show has its own little challenges," Jensen said. "It might be a little bumpier or whatnot. It's really fun to continuously execute it over and over again and just really strive for pride and precision just like Air Force airmen do every day."
During the air shows, as part of the Fallen Warrior Program, the name of a fallen local warrior will be flown on the No. 1 aircraft to honor their service and ultimate sacrifice to this country. This weekend, they will be honoring U.S. Army Cpl. Raphael Arruda, 21, of South Ogden. Arruda was killed in July 2011 in Afghanistan by an improvised explosive device.
"Warriors Over the Wasatch: A Legacy of Valor" air show and open house runs Saturday and Sunday. The base opens at 8 a.m., with performances beginning at 10 a.m. The gates close at 5 p.m.
The parking lot for F-16s will become a parking lot for the public. Buses will shuttle others from various lots to their destinations.
More information is available at www.hill.af.mil/warriorsoverthewasatch/index.asp.
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